Friday, December 17, 1999

‘There’s still a
lot of work to do’
in overhaul of
Bishop Estate

Which court will select
future trustees, and how much
should they be paid?

By Rick Daysog


They may be gone but they're not forgotten.

That's the view of the Bishop Estate's reform advocates in the wake of yesterday's resignation of Lokelani Lindsey, the last member of the Bishop Estate's former board to voluntarily step down.

While the embattled former trustees no longer have a say in the estate's operations, the new interim board faces a major task in overhauling the $6 billion charitable trust.

Many of the structures erected by the past board will be dismantled in keeping with court orders and a proposed agreement with the Internal Revenue Service, which is allowing the estate to retain its tax-exempt status in exchange for major reforms of trust operations.

"Now the path has been cleared so we can begin the healing process in its entirety," said Leroy Akamine, president of Na Pua a Ke Ali'i Pauahi, a 3,000-member parent, alumni and student group that protested the trustees' management of the Bishop Estate.

"But certainly this is not the end. The work of the Kamehameha ohana is to make sure that the ghost of the past never revisits us." The task begins with the selection of future Bishop Estate trustees. Probate Judge Kevin Chang held a hearing today on whether to approve a plan for picking permanent estate trustees. He said he would issue a written order soon.

For more than 100 years, the Bishop Estate trustees were selected by the state Supreme Court in keeping with the will of the estate's founder, Bernice Pauahi Bishop. But the high court stepped away from the selection process in December 1997 amid public criticism that the process had been tainted by politics.

The estate's new court-appointed master, Benjamin Matsubara, recommended last month that the Probate Court have the final say in picking future board members, whose tenure at the trust would be limited to two five-year terms.

Under the Matsubara plan, the probate court would make its selection from a list of candidates submitted by a seven-member advisory committee.

The state attorney general's office is opposing the plan, saying it wants to see trustee selections made by the Intermediate Court of Appeals.

In addition to the trustee selection process, the interim board is wrestling with the issue of trustee pay and the selection of a new chief executive officer to take over the daily operations of the estate from its trustees.

Earlier this year, the interim board of trustees hired the Los Angeles-based consulting firm Korn/Ferry International to conduct a national search for a new CEO. The firm has interviewed several candidates and hopes to make a recommendation within the next month, sources close to the trust said.

Meanwhile, the probate court will hold a Jan. 21 hearing on trustee compensation. A special compensation committee recently recommended that future board members' pay be capped at $97,000 a year.

The committee -- which includes former estate master Colbert Matsumoto, attorney Allen Hoe and Kamehameha Schools alumnus Mike Rawlins -- also recommended that the future chairman of the board receive no more than $120,000 a year.

"There's still a lot of work to do," said Deputy Attorney General Hugh Jones.

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